I realized not long ago, I never posted any (or maybe just a little) images showing the custom chrome etching I’m doing on my bike. And only until recently after a few inquiries did it spark my memory which prompted me to G.A.I.G (get ass in gear) and do so. So here we are.
Anyone in the motorcycle world will tell you that the rarest motorcycle in the world is a Harley Davidson with no customization done to it. One would be hard pressed to find such a rare bird and if you do it is likely because it just rolled off the assembly line or out of the showroom. Even out of the showroom, many new buyers order or have new parts installed at the dealership before they even put their ass in the saddle. Motorcyclists, especially Harley people, like to make their bikes their own.
In my case, it started the day after I got my 2003 100th Anniversary Heritage Softail Classic in December 2014. Not that I did any customization, but when I was adjusting my bars I dropped the Allen wrench and chipped the paint on my tank. It’s just a small dot, but it’s mine and I own it. After that, I pondered what to do to the bike to make it more…….. mine.
A couple years went by and by then I had developed a fondness for Filigree. Filigree, is a form of metal work that involved intricate twisting and shaping of metal wire and beads. It is art which is largely used in architectural applications but has evolved over the years to include print art and sculptures. The patterns used in filigree often, if not always, involve the twisting and intertwining of flowers, leaves, pedals and lines to create elaborate patterns that can often confuse the eye. The trick is to look at the whole of the filigree, not its individual parts.
I began hand drawing filigree and mixing it with my other favorite, old school flames, like those that were done back in the day on hot rods. I found the two worked well together and began to experiment, drawing mind bending patterns on my Microsoft Surface Pro using Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk. Two things I dearly love, my Surface and Sketchbook. Too much fun and damn powerful.
Eventually, it dawned on me that this is what I needed to do to my Harley.
Looking at my bike one day as it sat in the driveway, I thought “It looks like it could be a pirate ship”.
And with that thought I figured that flames wouldn’t fit into that theme, but Filigree would and so I got myself prepared for the transformation. Since it was winter, it was cold and sloppy outside and I knew the bike wasn’t going anywhere, I put it on the lift and began to take off parts. Where to start was easy, the rear heat shield had some discoloration due to a blanket that had touched it when it was hot. As a result, a part of the blanket seared onto the shield. After some careful work with very fine steel wool and a host of other chemicals, I was able to get it off but it was still dulled by the process.
To date, I still have more to do but the vast majority of the chrome on the right side of the bike is done and a few items on the left side are done, the tank console is done, the engine guard, the mirrors, the backrest rails are all done. I still have to do the primary cover and derby cover, the forks, the lights, the windshield trims, the tree cover, tail lights and some other little bits. But so far, I have just over 24 hours into the work. Now I didn’t do this in one sitting, no. This has taken me over a year to do, because, well, I do want to ride it. Regardless, when I am at it, it is slow going as you don’t want to rush this type of thing so I don’t let the tool get away from me.
Some who have seen the work have expressed concerns that I’m going to create rust under the chrome or within the chrome itself, when in fact it will not. The initial thought when one sees it is that I have broken through the plating to the metal below, when actually all I am doing is merely scratching the surface. Once the pattern is down, I fill the scratches with a high heat paint (for those areas that need it). The paint dries very fast and after that application of the paint I use a 0000 fine steel wool to take off the excess paint. In most cases I am finding that this does not scratch the chrome, but I have found that depending upon where the chrome is will determine the quality and durability of the chrome. The lower parts seem to have a plating that is not as durable as the upper, shinier parts. The heat shields and pipes for example do show some fine blemishes in the finish when done with the steel wool. But one must keep in mind if you look at things under a microscope you will see flaws. That being said, from a standing distance, these blemishes and scratches are not noticeable at all and the etching work stands out very nicely.
I haven’t experimented with the non-high heat paints yet since the black that I use is the color that I want. I will be testing the waters with other colors and also on painted surfaces. My local shop was kind enough to give me a painted fender that was no longer needed to experiment on. That is coming.
I have only had one professional picture taken of the etching work I’ve done and that is the lead photo in this blog. I think that once I am complete with all the work, I will take the bike to a studio and have it professionally photographed.
I’m never one to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty proud of the work I have done on this. Enjoy these non-professional photos.